Senate Passes The S.510 Bill to Strengthen Food Safety
Improving food safety is critical in the United States, where at least 76 million cases of food-borne illness occur each year, according to data from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, the Senate passed legislation that will strengthen the US Food and Drug Administration’s oversight on food manufacturing processes and increase its ability to order recalls before outbreaks occur.
US Food and Drug Administration Responsible for 80% of Food Supply
S.510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, passed by a vote of 73 to 25 after an amendment to the bill was approved to exempt small farms and producers with less than $500,000 a year in sales from the legislation. Opponents of the bill were concerned that local farmers would go out of business because of the need for expensive food safety plans.
Currently, the FDA is responsible for safeguarding about 80% of the US food supply, but inadequate budgets and limited enforcement authorities have hindered the agency’s ability to prevent outbreaks. It also increases the ability of the FDA to monitor imported foods, as these comprise nearly a fifth of the US food supply.
The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy products and processed foods. The bill does not include requirements for food processors that fall under the US Department of Agriculture’s jurisdiction, which includes meat and poultry.
Last year, the US House of Representatives passed its own version of the bill, so the next step is to reconcile the differences between the two before it is sent to President Obama to sign into law. Both versions grant the FDA increased power over food recalls and more resources to increase inspections plus require more accountability from food companies and farmers.
The difference between the two bills mainly lies in the funding for the increased resources. The House version requires food producers to pay an annual fee to help fund inspections, but that provision was not included in the Senate’s version of the bill.
Erik D. Olson, director of the Pew Health Group, an advocacy group that pushed for updated food safety laws, said, “We applaud the US Senate’s passage of historic bipartisan food safety legislation. It is a major step toward improving how the US Food and Drug Administration protects people from preventable illnesses that sicken millions and kill thousands of Americans every year.”